Carroll schools aren't cool

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New heaters raise temperatures to 91˚ in some classrooms.

By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — If there’s a single issue getting Carroll schools leaders hot under the collar about the phase III construction projects, it’s misfiring heating and cooling units at the intermediate school.
Architect Randy Baker reported to the Carroll School Board last Monday that, during a visit to CCIS earlier in the day, he found one room hovering at 91 degrees.
“It’s pretty warm, so something’s just not correct,” Baker said.
While earlier concerns focused on the appearance of new columns at the entrance of the Carroll County High School, additional work by the contractors appear to have smoothed over those problems, the school board learned Jan. 7 after an inspection of that work.
At the school board meeting that followed, newly re-elected Chairman Brian Spencer turned the construction progress discussion to the temperature swings in the intermediate school rooms served by the new heating and cooling units.
He wondered if using those devices just for cooling would solve the problem.
This school board, early in its term, revised the construction project at the intermediate school, putting $500,000 specifically towards air conditioning to cool existing parts of the facility.
Educators have known for several months that the new systems haven’t been holding the rooms at steady temperatures.
“We’re still getting fluctuations,” Clerk of the Works Dennis Cole reported.
School officials’ expectations of having a working system aren’t being met, he continued. The design team is hoping the manufacturer and the subcontractor will get this issue resolved soon.
Officials would rather have those responsible correct the matter before the contractors leave the site, the clerk of the works said. The other option is having the units pulled out, a drastic move.
Acceptable temperature variation is about three degrees, but Baker noticed that some variations approached five to seven degrees during his visit to CCIS.
The architects aren’t satisfied with the situation at all. The school board has spent money for a system that works, and Baker believes that there’s something wrong with the equipment that’s been installed.
Cole has been working with the contractors to correct this problem without changing out the new heating and cooling units.
The units could also provide a backup if the other system went down, he suggested. “If you had the ability to use the units for that purpose, because you have such an old system, my recommendation is if you’ve got it available to you, you ought to make sure it’s working just in case.”
It doesn’t much matter to Spencer if the new units provide heat, as the school board added the new rooftop-based HVAC equipment in order to cool the overheated areas of the school in the warmer months.
“If we thought we were getting just a cooling system, then why don’t we just have the cooling?” he asked.
The chairman doesn’t want to use the electric heat because it’s a lot more expensive. The school could use its existing coal-fired heating system, which is cheaper.
Cole said he would have more confidence that the cooling system would work correctly if the contractor sorted out the heating side now.
Changing over the 80-year-old heating system isn’t an easy process and can take staff a couple days to get the rooms heated through the boiler, Cole said. That system has valves, radiators and a pipeline to carry water to heat the rooms.
That system is likely on its last legs, and the new units provide an alternative heating source, he said.
It’s getting to the point where school officials might have to “pull the trigger” and insist that the contractors remove the new system and try again, school board members and staff discussed. The heating and cooling units have a one-year warranty from the time the school system accepts them, but those units haven’t been accepted yet.
“We’re starting to have some significant staff time being spent,” School Board Member Joey Haynes said, about all the attention going towards the heating and cooling.
“And you shouldn’t,” Baker answered.
It’s the contractor’s responsibility to get this system to run properly, he said.